Mardi Gras might officially be less than two weeks away, but Wofford College’s campus community and its culinary partner, AVI Foodsystems, couldn’t wait for a party.

The grand re-opening celebration included New Orleans food favorites, a brass band, ice carving demonstrations and activity stations throughout the building designed to engage and inspire students. The newly renovated, two-floor dining hall was completed in December 2021 at a cost of $11 million, funded largely by AVI Foodsystems.

“This space – this beautiful, new space — will fuel us with food, certainly, but also with conversation, laughter, knowledge, creativity and fun. So, it’s appropriate today that we have some fun, enjoy the food that I find exceptional, and also spend some time celebrating family and friends,” says Wofford President Nayef Samhat. “I’ve talked with a number of people who saw Burwell during its early days and who have spent time in Burwell now, and they almost can’t believe it’s the same building. We appreciate our AVI campus partners, McMillan Pazdan Smith architects and Robins & Morton construction for their part in making this day possible.”

The renovation provided a modern glass atrium, elevator and culinary options on both floors of the building. The multi-level facility has an additional 150 seats and three rooms that can be reserved for meetings: the Gray-Jones Room, the Anna Todd Wofford Room and the Holcombe Room. In addition, the building features a faculty dining space, the Montgomery Room, and a smaller president’s dining room. All of the rooms are outfitted with technology, including the Holcombe Room’s 85-inch television.

But the food will always be the star.

“I am confident that Burwell will be a destination where traditions, cultures and diverse foods are embraced and where amazing fresh meals are served each and every day by AVI team members who embrace a culture of genuine hospitality,” says Anthony Payiavlas, president and CEO of AVI Foodsystems. “It will be the place where people come together, form lasting friendships and create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. In the simplest of terms, I want Burwell to be known for great food and outstanding hospitality and service.”

Each dining station is intended to be its own destination.

“We want every station to have its own restaurant identity,” says Cherie Tyger, resident director of culinary services, who points out the digital signage at each station listing its name and the day’s menu. Stations also have their own designated bowls and plates to complement themes.

There’s pizza cooked in a brick oven at Trattoria, barbecue and other grilled fare at Smoke & Fire, Asian-inspired cuisine at Fusion. Clarity offers meals that are free of eight major allergens and gluten. Those simply wanting a sandwich can visit the Carvery and find house-roasted meats. The dessert bar has gelato and a variety of pastries.

All of Burwell’s dining stations have open kitchens, which make it possible to watch the artistry that can be associated with cooking, especially when the wok is in use at Fusion.

“The BTUs for it are off the charts,” says Stephen Baity, director of culinary operations, of the wok. “We have some amazing equipment.”

There’s also a tandoori oven for naan bread, a robot for doughnuts and a popsicle machine.

AVI prides itself on cooking many dishes from scratch and establishing relationships with farmers near client partners.

“Fresh food is not only our culinary philosophy; it is how food was intended to be prepared,” Payiavlas says. “It is at the core of what we do. Taking the time and effort to prepare food from scratch is how we best demonstrate that we truly care for the people we serve. Students need nourishment to reach their goals and to empower their learning. Every client partner and every guest deserves only the best that we can provide; our commitment to scratch cooking and our platinum culinary standards of excellence is how we deliver our best every day.”